“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight, that knows not victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
Who would have thought it? After Nigeria’s inexplicable absence from last year’s Cup of Nations finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, the Super Eagles soared, unexpectedly, to the continental summit, at Johannesburg’s Soccer City, ending a near 20-year wait for a third trophy.
And could anyone have predicted that ‘minnows’ Burkina Faso, a team that had never reached the knockout stages (except when it hosted the competition in 1998), would be the Super Eagles’ worthy opponents in the final, following their dramatic, well-earned victory over Ghana’s Black Stars?
Or that Côte D’Ivoire, tournament ‘favourites’ for the last seven years, would ‘choke’ in the quarter-finals, against the eventual winners?
And as for Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks? Bravo to the worthy débutantes, I say… It would have been an even better tournament, had there been top-notch officiating, which was generally lacking.
Slim Jdidi, the Tunisian referee now suspended by CAF, for his disgraceful mismanagement of the Burkina Faso v Ghana semi-final, did the African game a terrible disservice. A very lengthy ban, for his serial acts of perfidy, must be handed down, to serve as a needed deterrent to others.
South Africa’s Daniel Bennett also needs to take a good, hard look in the mirror as well, for his handling of the group game between Togo and Tunisia.
When referees are at the centre of the match drama, rather than being ‘invisible’, impartial arbiters, there is a problem, which African football’s chieftains must confront and defeat, very quickly.
And the pitches, my word, the pitches… Can anyone out there yell a request to CAF, to ensure that games aren’t played on potato farms, like the Mbombela ground, which, ironically, was in immaculate condition during the last World Cup?
As our marquee competition, organisational excellence is a must at the Nations Cup… Morocco has barely 22 months before hosting the next tournament. They better get cracking